Lemon rosemary foccacia
So, I have actually been a bread baker since the age of approximately 12, when I discovered the art of kneading dough and fell in love with the general stress-releasing process of making bread in general. Bread is shockingly easy to make but incredibly impressive to show off to your friends, which in my opinion is the winning baking combination. I made a typical braided loaf for many years each Thanksgiving, but in recent years I have branched out to my new favourite type of bread – foccacia. This kind of bread is unbelievably good for parties because you take a massive loaf of it out of the oven, put it in the center of the table (preferably with some roasted garlic on cut up tomatoes on the side for people to spoon onto it), and just let people rip it apart. So communal.
This foccacia is potentially the best bread I’ve ever made, and I’ve made a lot of bread. The addition of lemon adds an amazing tanginess to the bread and makes it the perfect amount of soft and chewy. Like with all homemade breads, this is by far the best about 5 minutes after you take it out of the oven, but if you seal it well in a plastic bag or foil it can keep for a couple of days. Seriously, please give bread baking a try sometime. It’s more of a time investment than some other types of baking, but it pays off in spades, and isn’t hard at all.
Lemon rosemay foccacia (adapted from Girl Versus Dough)
Makes 1 large rectangular loaf (I always like to bake foccacia on a cookie sheet)
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 packet) active dry yeast
2-4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 cups flour (I used only all-purpose, but you could substitute whole wheat for some of it)
2 teaspoons salt
Leaves of 2-4 branches fresh rosemary
1 large lemon, washed and sliced as thinly as possibly into rounds
Flaky sea salt (Maldon is obviously the best)
In a medium bowl, dissolve yeast with 1/2 cup warm water and let stand for about 5 minutes until foamy. Add 1 1/4 cups more warm water and 2 tablespoons olive oil and stir. (The warm water is important since that is what makes the yeast rise – don’t use hot water, but it should be warm.) Sprinkle in the salt and add about 2 cups of the flour, stirring till fully combined. Continue adding flour, half cup by half cup, until a soft dough forms and begins to pull away from the side of the bowl.
Then comes kneading time! Flour a countertop or cutting board and put a generous amount of flour on your hands to take the dough out of the bowl. Knead it on the surface until it’s smooth and not sticky. (If you’ve never kneaded before, essentially just press it with the palms of your hands and then pull it back towards you. It’s not hard.) Shape dough into a ball and place in a large bowl that’s been sprayed with non-stick spray (or you could put some olive oil on a paper towel and smear it on the bowl). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature for at least an hour. At this point you can just go do something else, which is the nice thing about making bread.
Spray a cookie sheet with non-stick spray. Then punch down the dough (great stress release). Using floured hands, take the ball of dough, put it in the centre of the cookie sheet, and spread it until it goes over essentially the whole cookie sheet. The dough might resist a bit, but with a little persistence it’ll start to behave. Cover it with a damp towel or just leave it out uncovered and let rise again for one hour (30 mins if you are pressed for time).
Preheat oven to 230 degrees C /450 degrees F. Uncover dough and poke lightly with fingertips to create dimples. Drizzle with olive oil and top with fresh rosemary leaves. Top with sliced lemon and sprinkle with sea salt. Drizzle on more olive oil. Pause to admire how BEAUTIFUL it is. Bake bread until golden brown, about 20-30 minutes. Remove from oven and drizzle with a bit more olive oil if desired. Let cool slightly before going to town on it.
Oh and I have labeled this post as “nice” because eaten in moderation / with salad, bread is totally good for you. And it makes the entire house/apartment smell absolutely heavenly. Seriously, this is a winner recipe.